System change in the suckler beef sector

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

As we all know agriculture is going through a period of change and challenges. Be it Brexit and the uncertainty this brings, or the relatively poor beef price currently, these are all things sent to challenge us and that’snot taking into account the weather! What can we do to manage our own businesses and what can we change that is under our control and what do we need to look at in order to change and ensure we have resilient businesses going into a world of potentially lower subsidy support?

The key message is - we can’t change things when we don’t know where the problems lie or, more importantly, what we are good at. To do this, firstly, we need to measure where we are.

Enterprise Costings and physical herd performance

Know where you are in terms of costs and performance and set targets. The dairy, poultry and pork sectors monitor everything closely, mainly because the rewards for doing so are more instant and the effect of the changes we make can be seen more quickly and if we get it right, this is massively rewarding. Suckler beef by its very nature is a longer process but changes can still be made, and the response can be just as rewarding if we know what we’ve changed, how we changed it and why we did it.

Allocating costs to different enterprises can be as detailed or as simple as you like but the main thing is to make a start somewhere. Benchmark your performance against other similar farms and benchmark against yourself, setting your own targets in the areas you know you need to improve having gathered the data.

Doing this will flag up areas of focus – Can you make small alterations? or do you need to review your complete system and make game-changing alterations in terms of the type of cow or marketing policy?

Using EiD and weighing systems to monitor weight gain and breeding from the most productive animals using this information, is key. Do you know the weight of your cows? Are you estimating? How accurate are you?